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Point of View: U.S. has no business starting military conflict in Iran

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In this photo released on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks to a group of students in Tehran, Iran. Khamenei publicly chastised the country's moderate president and foreign minister Wednesday, saying he disagreed with the implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal they had negotiated with world powers. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
In this photo released on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks to a group of students in Tehran, Iran. Khamenei publicly chastised the country's moderate president and foreign minister Wednesday, saying he disagreed with the implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal they had negotiated with world powers. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

President Trump’s declarations that he has no intentions of going to war with Iran seem a reversal of two years of anti-Iran rhetoric and U.S. actions appearing to Middle East observers as steps toward military action or war.

On May 9 of this year, according to news reports, America’s top national security aides heard the presentation of an updated military plan by Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to send as many as 120,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East “in case Iran should accelerate work on nuclear weapons” or be perceived to attack any U.S. forces.

In May of last year, President Trump abandoned the landmark 2015 nuclear deal brokered by the United States and five world powers. In November, Trump reinstated the economic sanctions targeting Iran and all states that traded with Iran. This was despite intrusive inspections and verifications by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has remained in compliance with the terms of the deal.

This administration's hostility toward Iran parallels the perspective of John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser and one of the administration’s most ardent Iran hawks. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also criticized the Iran nuclear deal.

Bolton pushed for confrontation with Iran 10 years ago during the administration of President George W. Bush, but the idea was ignored. Then, last year, at a gathering in Paris, Bolton told an audience of some 1,000 people including Iranian exiles, “The declared policy of the United States should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran.” He added, “The behavior and objectives of the regime are not going to change and, therefore, the only solution is to change the regime itself.” Video of that speech show Bolton concluding his remarks saying, “And that’s why, before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran!”

The U.S. sanctions have had a crushing effect on Iran’s economy and its people, and have not gained wide support among U.S. allies. Indeed, other signatories to the nuclear deal moved to set up an alternative mechanism aimed at helping international trade with Iran while avoiding U.S. penalties.

Trump’s circle of anti-Iran high-level advisers, his anti-Iran rhetoric and U.S. military forces being deployed in the region have seemed intended to provoke the possibility of an incident that could trigger escalation or war with Iran.

Americans are paying a high price for our two Middle East wars with Iraq and Afghanistan. Both conflicts remain agonizing, expensive and unresolved, and have been blamed by many for the rise of ISIS in the region, as suspicions of U.S. anti-Muslim sentiments and historic interest in Middle East oil continue to fuel anti-U.S. resentments.

Estimates of the full costs of those wars vary widely, from between $6 trillion to more than $12 trillion when calculating the cost of all care for veterans and families of U.S. casualties. We grieve the 6,600 Americans killed so far in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the untold thousands left physically maimed or emotionally deranged by PTSD. On the other side, more than a million people have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in those wars, and millions more have been displaced or have emigrated to less dangerous places.

Tell Congress members that the United States has no business starting another military conflict in Iran, or anywhere else in the world.

Batchelder is director of The Peace House in Oklahoma City.

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